Coal Drops Yard – An Update

The roof at Coal Drops Yard, designed by Thomas Heatherwick

Dear Readers, you might remember that I’ve been keeping an eye on the Piet Oudolf-inspired planting around Coal Drops Yard at Kings Cross, to see how it’s maturing and whether it has as much pollinator-attractiveness as it promised. Well, clearly there are no longer any gaps: have a look at this positive bank of Rudbeckia, which was attracting many hoverflies (none of which I managed to photograph, but they were there! I promise).What strikes me most, though, are the textures: this style of prairie-planting features many grasses and seedheads, and I think it works very well in this urban context. And if anyone can identify any of these plants, I would be most appreciative!

What struck me most, though was the sun shining low through these grasses. They really are stunning.

I only wish that when I planted things in the garden I was so conscious of how they would look at different times of the year. Or is this a happy accident? The sun was also lighting up these deep magenta asters, which were attracting a few of the last queen bumblebees before they settle down for the winter.

But what struck me  most was not the planting here, but a much more modest planting just around the corner, close to the Waitrose supermarket and the Ruby Violet ice cream shop (highly recommended). There was a little family of young sparrows in the hedge – sparrows always love a hedge, for shelter and  food and everything else that they need, and these birds were taking full advantage. It was lovely to hear them chirruping away, especially as they are now so much rarer in London than they used to be.

And a few metres away there was some lovely soft soil, just perfect for a dust bath.

Meanwhile, a robin sang from a low branch and occasionally cocked its head to listen to another robin before responding.

With a little thought, it’s very possible to create habitats and niches for all kinds of wildlife in the city, and they aren’t always where you might think. More power to the designers here for making space for the birds and the bees.

You can read more about Coal Drops Yard below, and see how the wildlife changes through the year.

First visit in February 2020

Revisit in October 2020

Revisit in July 2021

4 thoughts on “Coal Drops Yard – An Update

  1. Anne

    A brilliant and delightful post! I love seeing the sparrows doing what sparrows do and that is a lovely photograph of a robin. I also enjoy progress updates, so thank you for this one.

  2. sllgatsby

    I always feel a little flutter of envy when I read of these things, as I so fervently wish that big cities in the US put in this kind of effort. I mean, as a country, we have a lot of open space, but much of it is farmed by big business using pesticides and herbicides. And in my state, many of the “forests” ones sees are really monocrop farmed forests. And then in the cities, little thought is given to creating wildlife spaces. If there is greenery, the motivation is looks, not native plants or habitat. Sigh. When I got to England, I marvel at the unmown patches in public parks, the wildflowers in verges, and the native plants in public spaces.

    1. Bug Woman Post author

      We’re only getting ‘with the programme’ fairly recently in the UK – parks used to be well-manicured and full of generic bedding plants, so it’s only in the past decade that there’s been an increase in wildlife-friendly planting. There’s still hope! I always feel as if Toronto is very nature-depleted in the heart of the city whenever I visit (my husband is Canadian), but maybe it’s all the wild-open spaces that give people a false sense that there’s plenty of access to nature. In the UK, it was recently found that there’s more biodiversity in ‘edge areas’ on the borders of cities than in the countryside because of intensive agriculture. Sigh.

      1. sllgatsby

        That makes sense. Today’s agricultural practices are not kind to wildlife. Although, again, I’ve read several stories of UK farms working with local wildlife experts to set aside bits of their fields specifically for birds and such. I can’t imagine that here.

        One difference I see that I think is a driver in this divide, is that in Britain, there is a long history of gardening for all, men and women, especially with allotments. We have only recently (last 20 years or so, I think) started a system of publicly available gardening space, which we call p-patches.

        Another difference is that while farming is considered more of a manly endeavor here, gardening is considered more feminine. As is attracting birds and other wildlife. This is not to say no men do it, but in the couples I know, only the women tend roses or cultivate native gardens or fill bird feeders. The single men I know either let the garden go or are only interested in a perfect lawn.

        All that to say, farmers here would likely consider setting aside any land for re-wilding (which is not even a well-known term here) or filling with native plants a bit of a silly, rather effeminate idea.

Leave a Reply